Leave the laptop, take the iPad – Conferences

Apple iPad
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Recently I attended the Asia Pacific Blackboard Summit 2010 in Cairns which was the first conference I had attended where I had my shiny new iPad with me.

To that end I thought I would take the chance to do a little bit of a roundup on how my iPad held up during the conference and my thoughts surrounding its usefulness as a tool for the professional at a conference. Prior to me getting too far into it I would like to say that I am writing this article after choosing to use my laptop as little as possible through out the conference so this article really is targeted at detailing the strengths and weaknesses of the iPad rather than a comparison between a laptop and the iPad.

Outline of my minimum requirements for connectivity during the conference:

  1. Access work email and calendar as well as personal email and calendar
  2. Provide basic remote support for any issues at the office
  3. Take notes during the conference and meetings if required
  4. Provide sufficient battery life to stand up to regular and at times constant use throughout the day without a recharge
  5. Let me keep in contact with the rest of my life on a personal level such as Facebook, forums, reading the online news papers and so on and so fourth

Having said that there were a couple of additional nice to haves which, while not required, I wanted a device to satisfy which included:

  • Entertain me on the flight to and from the destination (three hour flight)
  • Provide entertainment during “slow” periods at the conference
  • Enable me to do a bit of blogging if the chance arose
  • Provide the ability to tweet through out the conference when such an appropriate time presented itself.

Interesting points I discovered:

  1. I *had* to use my laptop once during the conference to do some advanced remote support for the office, this was things that could not be done on the iPad
  2. The battery life on the iPad is spectacular, I put it through its paces for an entire day at the conference, then the three hour flight back home and still had 40% battery life remaining
  3. The iPad is not built for extremely heavy use of the browser, if you attempt to open more than 3 tabs in the browser at most you are likely to get the message saying you are running low on the battery
  4. There are a few applications which are immensely useful for the professional on the road which are outlined further below.

Applications I recommend:

  • Evernote – A note taking application (which includes voice recording among with a lot of other features). Also provides the ability to easily sync the notes with your desktop when you are back at the office.
  • LogMeIn – An application to have remote access to computers back in the office/home, obviously requires some prior setup to be completed so that the computers will be accessible.
  • Twitter – The new twitter app available, nice and swish and worked like a dream.
  • iSSH – For remote access to my webserver

In future will I leave my laptop at home and take an iPad in its place?

Personally, for a three day conference I would have no qualms in doing so. When it comes down to the punch however it would depend on a condition dictated by the workplace. If there was even the remote possibility that advanced remote support would be required there would  have to be a full fledged computer close by (such as a business lounge) or if a workmate had a laptop that would suit as well, otherwise I would still have to take the laptop.

For a three day conference I was quite content to keep in touch with the world through my iPad, granted when I was in my room I used my laptop a couple of times, but anything I wanted to do I could have easily done on the iPad without breaking a sweat.

Granted this is just one guys opinion but I have to say, I was thoroughly impressed with how the iPad held up over the three days. And I was stoked that I did not have to worry about the battery life, in fact it was the one thing that I was utterly surprised with in just how long the battery held up. I do apologise that I do not have specific timings but the usage tab of the iPad does not say how long the iPad has been in use for like the iPhone does.

I welcome your thoughts and questions on how you use the iPad (or similar) in place of a laptop at conferences.
Stuart